Conn. retirement agency saves paper

Connecticut’s Retirement and Benefits Services Division, which began converting more than a half-million microfiche and paper records to electronic versions about five years ago, will make some reporting and workflow enhancements in the next few months.

David Wemett, the division’s technical analyst, said that users will soon be able to store and view reports generated by the mainframe system on the division’s document management system, which was created by Vignette. The reports, which can run thousands of pages, will no longer have to be printed out.

Counselors who help determine whether an employee is eligible to retire usually request the reports, but employees and retirees also request reports of their contributions and other related information, Wemett said. This new feature will be implemented in the next few weeks, and he said he expected it would pay for itself within about six months.

Another enhancement is implementation of a workflow system in which an employee’s or retiree’s file is routed to several people who must view it and take action on it. Wemett said such a system would essentially make more people accountable and facilitate the resolution of problems.

“Right now things move around physically, and we want to move it around electronically so we know where everything is,” he said. However, he said political resistance to the system is likely, so it will be implemented in phases.

The division manages $37 billion in assets and administers retirement benefits for about 88,000 active state employees, 37,000 state retirees and 46,000 active and retired municipal employees.

In all, the division has about 500,000 personnel records – and millions of pages – representing almost everyone who has ever worked for the state, Wemett said. State law mandates that all records be saved for 50 years, and the sheer number and size of the records were causing storage, management and retrieval issues, he added.

Five years ago, the division set about replacing the outdated microfiche system. Officials considered outsourcing the conversion of microfiche and paper to electronic records but the cost was too high. Instead, officials went out to bid and chose Vignette’s document management system. All new incoming paperwork is immediately scanned and stored into the electronic system and is easily retrievable.

Most of the existing documents -- between 70 percent and 80 percent -- have been converted, he added.

The main benefit of the new system is that the state needs fewer people to manage the paper records, he said.

“There were 10 to 15 people whose whole job was to push paper into folders and file cabinets,” Wemett said. “They have been absorbed into other functions or retired. We are down to about two people scanning in records.”

Initially, the project took about four weeks, including equipment installation and training at a cost of about $500,000.

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